Economists conducted a $5 million experiment to (literally) shed light on crime

by Andrew Van Dam | Washington Post
May 14, 2019

The economists write that street lighting outages were the third most common complaint fielded by the city’s 311 operators between 2010 and 2016. Some saw that as an indication that residents, particularly those in public housing, knew they needed improved residential lighting long before the city’s massive experiment.

It’s typical of the city’s heavy-handed approach that its response to lighting complaints from public-housing residents was to install floodlights, which many associate with the police department, said Katy Naples-Mitchell, a fellow at the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard Law School.

“I would imagine the people who are calling 311 asking for improved lighting may be frustrated with the remedy of floodlights operating from sundown to sunrise in their neighborhood,” Naples-Mitchell said.

“If there was a dearth of street lighting on the Upper West Side, would the mayor’s office have dreamed up a response in consult with the NYPD and invited outside researchers to do a randomized controlled trial?”

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